Hawkins Urges State Senate to Pass Legislation Protecting Tenants


Howie Hawkins - Green for Governor Media Release
www.howiehawkins.org - www.gpny.org

For Immediate Release: August 3, 2010
For More Information:
Howie Hawkins, 315 425-1019 Mark Dunlea, 518 860-3725

 

(Syracuse, NY) Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, called upon the State Senate to pass a series of housing bills essential to providing rent reform when they meet in Albany today and tomorrow.

 

"As Governor, I will stand firmly with tenants to work to make sure that housing is affordable for all New Yorkers. Far too many New Yorkers spend 40% or more of their income paying for housing," Hawkins. Recent census data showed that in NYC, more than one in three renters spend 50% or more of their income on rent.

 

The NY Times has reported that real estate interests were the biggest donor to Andrew Cuomo over the last three years.

 

Since 1997, some 300,000 affordable apartments (rent controlled, rent stabilized, Mitchell-Lama, and Section 8) in the downstate region have been converted to unaffordable, market rent status due to pro-landlord provisions in our rent laws - and the tenants moving into these apartments lack basic rent and eviction protections.

 

Hawkins said a key issue was to repeal vacancy decontrol, which hurts millions of tenants not only in New York City but other downstate communities such as Westchester, Nassau and Rockland.

 

"Vacancy decontrol is an incentive for owners of rental housing to withhold services and to use forms of harassment to induce regulated tenants to vacate their rental units. Repeal of vacancy decontrol is essential to restore the integrity of the rent regulation systems and to protect the state's precious supply of affordable housing," added Hawkins.

 

Over 2.5 million New Yorkers in over 1 million apartments depend on rent-regulation to protect them from high rent increases, and from being evicted without cause. Rent-regulation in downstate is being undermined by 'vacancy decontrol', which allows landlords to take apartments permanently out of rent regulation when they become vacant. The potential for limitless rent increases, and minimal tenant rights, is encouraging landlords to use ever more vicious tactics to push long-term residents out of their apartments, and it is a primary reason why so many New Yorkers are unable to find affordable housing today.

 

Hawkins said he would also return the right to regulate rents to local governments rather than state legislators, since local officials understand better the realities of housing prices in their community. Hawkins would make the state's rent control laws permanent, and would extend it to every municipality with less than a 5% vacancy rate.

 

Hawkins also called upon the State Senate to pass legislation reforming the Rent Control Guidelines. In communities with rent control, rent guidelines boards that set rent increases for rent stabilized tenants. . These boards tend to award unjustly high rent increases and favor the landlord interests, based on the way these boards were designed in 1968. The Rent Board Reform Bill would improve the system in a number of ways, including ending the statutory vacancy bonus, requiring approval of NYC's RGB members by the NYC City Council rather than only the mayor, and ending the automatic rent-increases for rent-controlled tenants according to the Maximum Base Rent system.

 

Hawkins and other Green Party candidates also support legislation pending in the State Senate that would place all units in Mitchell Lama and Project Based Section 8 buildings into rent-stabilization upon exit from these subsidy programs, at the same rent levels that existed while buildings were in the programs. Doing this would remove a great deal of the incentive for developers to withdraw from these subsidy programs, and in cases where landlords still opt-out, it would preserve the affordability of these units. Mitchell-Lama and Project-Based Section-8 buildings received significant public subsidies to provide affordable housing to thousands of low and moderate income households. Developers of these projects can withdraw from these subsidy programs at the end of their contracts, in many cases bringing rents to market-rate levels overnight, which most tenants cannot afford. Tens of thousands of affordable housing units have already been lost, and tens of thousands more are at immediate risk.

 

The Greens support the establishment of a state rental subsidy program to assist households with incomes below 150% of poverty. Nationwide, only one-third of households that are eligible for existing rental assistance actually receive it. In addition, many of these units are in poor physical condition, with insufficient funds available to pay for repairs. The Greens advocate for increased public investment in affordable housing at both the state and federal level, including the use of public pension funds to support the construction of affordable housing.

Additional information